Six words. Our response to God’s presence and promptings in our lives can be summed up in six words: Yes, Lord. But Lord?! Yes, Lord! But before you read on, please know that today I am sharing my reflections about last week's post, the story of God stopping me cold forty-eight years ago.
I’m borrowing these phrases from Ananias, a man mentioned in the New Testament book of Acts. God commissioned him with a specific task: give a message of grace to someone scary – a man named Saul who became known as the Apostle Paul. You can read the story in Acts 9:10-22.*
We don’t know anything about Ananias, other than the simple statement that he was a disciple who lived in Damascus. His response to God’s calling his name in the middle of the day could not be more pedestrian and mundane. Yes, Lord. That’s like saying good morning to someone with whom he was well acquainted who happened to drop by. In other words, Ananias already lived with an awareness of God’s presence in his life. Anything I can do for you today, God? What a wonderful way to live, being conscious of the most amazing truth: God is with us. God is with me.
Forty-eight years ago, God stuck his hand into the terrarium of my existence, but I didn’t respond like Ananias. It was more like: Huh? What’s going on here? But everything changed, and I don’t know how else to say it: God became real. God was present. And I discovered that God had already been present without my knowledge, actively steering and shaping my life out of his merciful love and according to his best plans.
I am still learning to say Yes, Lord, every day – a simple acknowledgement of the presence of our active and creative God in my daily life. As I do, I’m rehearsing for the day when I will truly live in the presence of God, in the life that is truly life.
I wish that awareness for you. How different would your life be if you knew that God was present with you? If you lived into that awareness? Counted on it? Are you practicing for when you will live in heaven with God?
How does that begin? David discovered it. Jesus used the same simple language: Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you will find. Seek God’s presence. Say Yes Lord as you begin your day. Ask him to open your eyes that you might see him working. I guarantee that he will honor your desire. You may even be stopped cold like I was.
God’s instruction created a sense of fear and anxiety within Ananias, and he responded honestly: You want me to bring a message to a murderer? Really?
God does not have a problem when we share with him our inability to see what he sees, or to understand his ways. Ananias is just one of many people enshrined in the But Lord?! hall of faith:
Moses: I can’t speak well!
Gideon: you’ve got the wrong guy!
Esther: do I have to?
Mary: How can that be?
I’m still amazed, but appreciative, that God did not and does not disqualify me for my reluctance to serve him, being limited in my understanding, and lacking in my faith. Even today, I’m still learning to be honest with God about my fears. Throughout life, he wants us to admit our feelings to ourselves and to him, and to take his guiding hand anyway.
But he is saddened when in our confusion … or fear … or rebellion we say something completely different: No Lord!. Oh, we probably won’t be so bold as to actually speak those words. But to quote the songwriter Paul Simon, “There must be fifty ways to leave your lover”.
You just slip out the back, Jack Make a new plan, Stan You don't need to be coy, Roy Just get yourself free Hop on the bus, Gus You don't need to discuss much Just drop off the key, Lee And get yourself free
Then Ananias went… (Acts 9:17) This is much more than his first Yes Lord, which was about living into the presence of God. This is faith in action, with Ananias quietly singing the hymn Trust and Obey as he walked up to the front door.
As I stated in the closing section of my previous post, God stopped me cold on Campanile Way and sent me forth on Thanksgiving. So many of the important milestones and vistas along the last five decades have been because I said Yes Lord! to his guiding hand – Pasadena, Chicago, Sacramento, Escalon, Rancho Cucamonga, Olympia, Vancouver, and now back to Sacramento.
Don’t get the wrong impression. Jesus said that if we love him, we’ll obey his commands. I’m still a remedial student in my quest to become the loyal and loving servant God calls me to be. God’s grace… teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions**, and teaches us to say Yes Lord! to him. I’m continually learning to say Yes in the right direction, and I hope you are too.
Here’s my summary:
Yes Lord – learning to live in the presence of God
But Lord?! – learning to live honestly with God.
Yes, Lord! – learning to trust God’s thoughts and walk in His ways.
Before closing, I want to slip in a couple of random thoughts.
1. I don’t recommend anyone to pray like I did in the library -- If you don’t want me to do this, then you’ll have to stop me – unless you’ve first said Yes, Lord . He won't block you from making foolish decisions if you haven't surrendered your will to his.
2. God directed me to stay at a secular University, but training for ministry at a Christian college is not a bad idea. There are many factors that might make it helpful. I do believe that if we are truly interested in being the light of the world, then we’ve got to learn to live in such a way that we can effectively bring light and love to those who are stumbling around in the darkness.
Benediction of Blessing
May you seek to always live in the presence of God … both in this life and in the life to come.
May you learn the joy of being honest with God with your feelings and your fears.
May you learn to say Yes to your loving Lord, and follow in his footsteps, wherever he may lead you.
Picture: Ananias restoring the sight of Saint Paul, Pietro da Cortona, 1631. Public Domain.
* Ananias’ first two phrases – Yes Lord and But Lord – appear in The New Living Translation. The final Yes Lord is implied in his actions.
** Titus 2:11-12